The DP was deeply saddened to learn of the death of Helen Sessoms on May 9.
Sessoms was a typist and ad designer from the early years of cold type and paste-up through the transition to Macs and electronic ad composition. She worked for the DP for 25 years, from 1979 through her retirement in April 2004.
She is survived by her younger sister, another longtime DP employee, Oreta Richardson -- known to countless DP alumni simply as Rita. Rita and Helen worked side-by-side in the DP composing room for many years.
DP General Manager Eric Jacobs, who first worked with Sessoms as a student and went on to serve as her boss for more than two decades, recalled at her retirement luncheon in 2004 that the production environment at the DP was very different back in 1979: "There was, of course, no Internet. There were no PDF files. There was no assembly of the pages on the computer — because there were no computers! There was only a team of typists who typed all the editorial copy coming from the newsroom, and the ad copy coming from Production, and Helen’s younger sister Rita, who cut and pasted it all together into newspaper pages. Helen worked at night then, before shifting to daytime work to be around the ad staff."
In reviewing her long tenure at the DP, Jacobs said, "Over the years, the technology changed, and Helen always adapted to the latest — although she told me each and every time that she didn’t think she could learn the new computer system. But she did, and always with flying colors." Speaking of flying, he recalled with a laugh that Sessoms' first experience on an airplane came when the DP sent her for training on her first business trip. "This is life at the DP for you: we send Helen on one trip in her career, and where did she get to go? Somewhere warm? fun? exotic? Nope, it was to Wichita, Kansas!"
But it was the person, not the technology or the jobs she performed, that Jacobs sought to remember that retirement day. "Helen comes into work every day with a bright, wide smile and a cheery word of greeting for everyone. And I’m not saying that’s some days, or even most days — it’s every day. Through personal traumas and family problems, Helen has come to work for 25 years with a smile to greet every one of her co-workers every day. She cares about each and every person she comes in contact with here at the DP, and it’s been that way for a quarter century."
And that warmth and heart, said Jacobs this week upon learning of her passing, is how he and hundreds of DP alumni will remember her forever.
DP alumni who wish to reach out to Rita with DP memories about Helen can email her by clicking here.